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In earlier versions of Illustrator, and by that I mean anything up to version 8, we've only had the ability to apply a single Fill and a single Stroke as an attribute to an object. It's only in version 9 and forward that Adobe added this capability to have appearances, meaning multiple Fills, multiple Strokes, and also Live Effects, be applied to objects. In fact, when we're working inside of Illustrator, there are two ways that we refer to objects that have appearances applied to them. When an object has a single Fill and a single Stroke and no Effects applied to it, we refer to that object as having a Basic Appearance.
However, once we start adding multiple fills and multiple strokes, once we start changing the stacking order of fills and strokes within an object, and once we start adding Live Effects, those objects are referred to as having a Complex Appearance. So inside of Illustrator, an object either has a Basic Appearance or a Complex Appearance. In this example here, I have an object that has a Drop Shadow, a Rounded Corners effect, and Two Strokes. So obviously, this shape right here has a Complex Appearance applied to it.
Now, if I wanted to, I can come over to the Appearance panel, and from the flyout menu, choose an option here called Reduce to Basic Appearance. This would now, when I choose it, reduce the object to have no Effects applied to it, and leave it with just a single Fill and a single Stroke. So my object now has a Basic Appearance. Likewise, I can also click on this button, which says Clear Appearance. This would obviously remove all Fill and Stroke attributes. See here, they're all set to None. Now, I'm going to press Undo two times to go back to my original shape here.
Because there is yet another way to reduce an object from having a Complex Appearance to a Basic Appearance, but without it losing its look as it appears right now, and that's something called expanding an Appearance. For example, right now I have a single object that's made up of multiple attributes. I could go to the Object menu, and choose something here called Expand Appearance. When I do so, Illustrator creates as many objects as necessary, and all these objects all have Basic Appearances, yet the result is going to look the same.
So what do I have over here? If I use my Direct Selection tool, because I actually have a group over here, I'll see that I have one object right here, I have another object here, I have another object here, and then I have the Drop Shadow, which was turned into a raster image. So basically, all those elements were expanded into their own shapes. Each of those shapes have basic appearances, but all combined together as one group, they look as if they're a single shape, the same way that I had my original object as a Complex Appearance before.
Now, there may be times when you want to really expand appearance on your own. For example, I'm going to press Undo a few times here. If for some reason I wanted to make one adjustment to just this one stroke right here, because that stroke before was part of an appearance, I had no way to edit just that one part of the stroke and not change the other parts. So by expanding it now to a separate object, I can make this type of edit. However, by and large, you probably will never manually go ahead and expand an appearance by yourself inside of Illustrator, because you always want the effects and the appearances to remain live and in an editable state.
For example, right now, I have no way to modify or change that Drop Shadow. In fact, when you see now that I've made this adjustment to the stroke, the Drop Shadows are not updated. The Drop Shadow now has kind of been flattened into an un-editable state. It's just important to realize though, kind of in the back of your mind, that when you're taking artwork from Illustrator and sending it out to other places, for example, taking Illustrator artwork and copying and pasting it into InDesign, InDesign does not have the capability to create Complex Appearances or Live Effects like Illustrator has.
Now, you want your art to maintain the same appearance. So what happens in the background is that when I copy an object with a Complex Appearance from Illustrator and I then passed it into InDesign, that object automatically becomes expanded, so that it looks correct inside of InDesign. However, it won't be editable. It'll have the same capability here where I could take each individual object to make a change to it. But things, for example, like drop shadows or other effects are no longer live and in an editable state. Even if you never end up expanding appearances, it's still helpful to know the difference between a Basic Appearance, and a Complex Appearance.
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